It’s true. I admit it. I am a tree hugger. A recent radio interview made me realise that it is not that I am hugging the tree. Rather, it is that the tree is hugging me. To be honest, I find the transference of calm and peace beyond my comprehension. I just know it works for me. I have sat under trees, sung to them and chatted to them since I was a little girl at the top of the garden and it is a habit I can’t break.
Wise Old Trees
These days I have a favourite tree which I visit every birthday and on days when I have a lot to consider (good or bad). It is a very large Oak with a thick trunk and branches that bow right down to the ground. Nature has carved a natural seat in the trunk and I make myself comfortable with my back securely against the bark and feel the embrace of those branches surrounding me. I like to think that it has heard many other people’s trials, tribulations and joyful conversations over the 400 years that I estimate it has been growing. Imagine that ‘my’ tree has lived through the plague, Industrial revolution, the World Wars, right up to COVID in our time. It has seen social change and economic booms and busts. There is something very magical about that sense of time, place and continuity.
It may be wishful thinking on my part that my tree is listening but there is certainly proof that trees are able to communicate amongst themselves. Peter Wohlleben in his book “The Hidden Life of Trees” explains how there are families of trees which grow near one another and nurture each other. Their root systems intertwine and they are connected with mycelium so that a sick tree can be nourished underground by the family network. They can also issue warnings by emitting chemicals and scents to keep predators at bay. A good example is the acacia tree. When a giraffe starts to eat the leaves the tree emits ethylene gas. Sensing the gas other acacias nearby pump tannin into their leaves which makes them taste horrible and the giraffe feel ill. We humans are so arrogant to assume that we were the ones who created networking and the world wide web.
Trees were here before humans
We must remember that trees were here long before us. It is we who inhabit their world, not the other way around. I love the ginkgo tree which is also known as the living fossil. It is the oldest living tree species in the world, was around with the dinosaurs and is the only plant to have survived Hiroshima. Then, as time has passed, trees have become part of our history. In Britain oak is remembered for the great buildings and ships it built. Yew stands in many of our Churchyards as protection and to purify the dead entering into the next life. Hazel has been used in weaving for baskets, fences and wattle and daub walls. Each tree has a sense of purpose. It has entered into our culture, folklore, medicine and imagination.
Plant a tree
Trees become even more meaningful when we bring them into our own lives. I love to hear about people who have planted trees to mark a birthday, anniversary or remember a loved one. We planted a hornbeam when we married twenty years ago and every year since I have admired it. It is certainly aging better than we are. I am inclined to believe that someone who plants trees is a person who wants to make a difference to their surroundings, the environment and the climate. Overall, anyone who plants a tree surely must be an optimist? I remember the old Greek proverb which says “Society grows when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.
Faces in Trees
Sometimes people see faces in trees and this means those trees take on a human quality. ‘Pareidolia’ is the name given to the action of assigning human characteristics to objects. It has been found that we respond emotionally to illusory faces, such as the man in the moon, in exactly the same way that we would to human faces. We begin to feel different and hence have a type of relationship with that tree.
Spirit of the Trees
None of those theories really explain how I feel about trees though. A flowering cherry has a different emotional impact on me from a towering scots pine. They each seem to have their own personality. Some people believe in flower fairies, water sprites and tree spirits. The little girl that sang to those trees at the top of the garden has grown up and learned to live in an adult, rational, science-based world. However, there is still `a deep-rooted part of me which remains in awe of mother nature and feels a deep connection to trees. They have served as my inspiration, my counsellors and my supporters. I breathe in, feel refreshed and comforted by their energy. I live in hope that I am not the only one.
The Flower Writer
If you wish to plant a tree I have written some tips and created a video on the best way to do it on our Kiln Farm Nursery Gardening Tips. You can click here to view.